Baby-Led Weaning: How and When to Begin

You may be inspired by the baby-led weaning approach but are having a hard time giving it a start. Worry not! Here is a guide with simple easy tips to help you get started with the baby-led weaning method.  A study on 216 Spanish parents with babies 0-6 months old found 98.6% of the parents familiar with the baby-led weaning approach but in another study on 199 New Zealand families, only 8% were found following this method. The low number can be because of the difficulty to start the process. Let’s dive deeper and equip yourself with all the necessary starting pads of baby-led weaning to make your work easy.

Look for the Required Development Signs:

For the baby-led weaning approach, your baby must have the ability to sit upright along with holding his neck and must be presenting an interest in food and doing efforts to reach for it. A diminished tongue-thrust reflex is also required for the smooth feeding process. 

Get Some Baby-Led Equipment:

Some equipment you can have to make the process enjoyable and less messy is silicone waterproof bibs that are easy to clean and have a pouch to catch much of the food that baby drops, open cups specifically designed keeping the little hands in mind, silicone spoons and forks with grips for making self-feeding easy, a high chair to keep the baby settled in right posture near you at the mealtime, floor mat to be placed under the high chair and suction plates or bowls that can be fixed to the high chair, protecting them from being thrown here and there. Initially, you can place the food directly on the high chair but with time introduce platters and bowls. 

Make the Baby Sit in an Appropriate Position:

When starting baby-led weaning, sit the baby in an upright position with neck support. Preferably use a high chair for supporting their posture that makes it easy to spit out food rather than choke on it.

Introduce Some Soft Finger Food with Breast or Formula Milk:

Start giving your baby soft but slightly firm finger foods that are easy to fit in the baby’s hand and suitable for their age. Let the baby decide whether they are up for eating or not, how to eat, and how much to eat. Don’t worry if the baby eats less. They will get the rest of the energy from the milk, which remains an important nutrition source till your little one is one year old.  Steamed foods make good starters as they mash-up quickly, making chewing and swallowing easy. Some good starting foods can be steamed skinless veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, or broccoli, soft fruits like mango, melon, avocado, or banana, hard-boiled or scrambled egg, a toasted piece, or ricotta cheese. Roll the slippery foods in ground nuts and seeds for better grip by the baby.  With time slightly harder and cooked options can be included that can be veggies, fruits like skinless apple, pear, or peach, meatballs, whole pita bread, and salmon. Strips or slices, both work well. Round berries mashed or cut into quarters, mashed boiled beans or peas can also be included. 

Introduce New Foods Every Other Day or Week :

Every day or every week, make it your challenge to offer one new food to the baby for exploring. This allows the baby to have varied options and an opportunity for you to check what kinds of shapes and foods work best for your baby. 

Avoid Foods That Pose Choking or Food Poisoning Hazard:

Foods that can pose a choking hazard are small round foods like whole grapes, whole cherry tomatoes (unless mashed or cut into quarters), or other hard foods like popcorn or peanuts. Some foods like dry crackers can make too much crumbing and get dislodged in the baby’s mouth. That’s why they should also be avoided. Learn choking signs and management to better handle any emergency. For avoiding food poisoning and other health issues, avoid giving undercooked eggs, unpasteurized dairy products, highly processed foods, or those with too much sugar or salt.

Be an Example and a Vigilant In-Charge of Your Baby:

A study shows that babies show an interest in their parents’ eating and enjoy engaging. The New Zealand study on 199 families found that those babies following the baby-led weaning approach were more likely to have family foods and less likely to opt for commercially prepared baby foods. In addition, more meal sharing was found. Make the baby part of the family mealtime, and let the copying start. You are in charge of the baby during mealtime, never leave the baby unattended but always keep a check on anything needed, choking, or any such disturbing situation when you are first starting with solids through the baby-led weaning approach.

Baby-Led Weaning Requires Mindfulness:

Remove distractions like toys, TV, or mobile to help better focus on the food. This will help the baby know when they are full, and also develop that good habit of mindful eating in the long run. 

Don’t Feed More When the Baby Is Done:

When the baby closes their mouth, turns their head away, or is showing little interest in eating but just throwing, playing, or dropping on the floor, they are done. Trust them, don’t feed more. Build a positive eating environment, be patient if the baby eats less. It takes time to start having proper meals.  Note:  Depending on your baby’s individual needs, some amendments may be needed to the standard method as the feeding method is not always one-size-fits-all. If your child has any special healthcare considerations such as dysphagia or prematurity, it is necessary to talk to the pediatrician to know any modifications in the regular method that can work for your child.

Conclusion: 

Learning about baby-led weaning is great to have confidence in starting it. Go easy with your weaning adventure, it takes time to turn your baby into a wonderful little foodie. What matters is to be comfortable and make the baby enjoy this sensory experience along with nurturing a love of wholesome, real, and delicious foods.

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